Bids are in for So. Md. meat facility
HUGHESVILLE, Md. — The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission has received two bids to launch a large agricultural center and meat processing facility for farmers in the region.
St. Mary’s County’s economic development department and a Charles County businessman both submitted bids in late February after an initial Feb. 21 deadline was delayed to accommodate applicants, said Craig Sewell, SMADC’s marketing and livestock specialist.
The winner will receive a $1 million grant to build the regional center, which has been proposed primarily as a way to reduce long distances many Southern Maryland meat producers travel to have animals slaughtered and processed. The plan also includes a retail store, farmers market, meat locker, a community kitchen and classroom, and warehouse space for food distribution.
The proposal from St. Mary’s County would spread the agricultural center across two separate and nearby locations in Charlotte Hall. The site is about 3 miles from a new Amish slaughterhouse set to receive USDA certification this month, said Chris Kaselemis, the county’s economic development director.
SMADC was focused on building a slaughterhouse for several years until members of the local Amish community announced last year they were building their own. In response, SMADC reshaped its plan to focus primarily on meat processing, retail and community facilities.
St. Mary’s County’s processing facility would be built on a county-owned, 48-acre parcel at 37766 New Market Road.
It would feature a certified cut-and-wrap facility with smoking and curing rooms, classroom and kitchen space for workshops and training, and a meat sales and custom butcher counter. A meat storage and support facility would include a loading dock that accepts large delivery trucks and vans.
“Our overall economic improvement strategy includes agriculture,” Kaselemis said. “Every day we’re helping local farmers to stay in business and stay profitable and help local farms.”
A building for value-added products, including a commercial kitchen and classroom space, and another for fresh produce, fruit and flowers would be built on a second county-owned, 15-acre site nearby. The county chose the site at 29110 Redstone Lane in Mechanicsville two years ago for the relocation of the North St. Mary’s County Farmers Market at Charlotte Hall Library. The new market will have parking, picnic tables, restrooms and a bike path to a nearby trail.
“The farmers market is going to happen whether we get that SMADC grant or not, but I think this makes that more attractive for everybody,” Kaselemis said. “We’ve already thought about and envisioned for a long time what we want on that site.”
The county expects the meat processing facility to cost about $800,000. The remaining $200,000 would be dedicated to the enhancement of facilities at the second site, the county’s bid said.
Les Gooding of Hughesville Properties LLC submitted the second bid. He proposes converting a large tobacco warehouse on Old Leonardtown Road in Charles County into the processing facility and agricultural center.
Gooding could not be reached for comment but spoke to the Enterprise newspaper about his proposal. The barn in Hughesville was built to accept large tobacco shipments with loading bays for large trucks, he said, making it relatively easy to shift the facility into a busy meat processing operation.
After the state bought out most tobacco growers, SMADC was established in 2000 to help them transition into alternative farm products. Adapting a tobacco barn would be fitting, Gooding said.
“These barns … were a significant part of the tobacco trade,” he told the newspaper. “If (SMADC is) thinking about (helping) those same farmers, maybe we can get things right back to where it was before.”
SMADC’s review committee is meeting to discuss the bids on April 11, Sewell said. He declined to release Gooding’s bid or discuss either bid in detail. The committee could award the grant at the meeting or request additional clarification from bidders, he said.
“We’re very pleased that we had two responses and feel encouraged that the project will go forward,” he said.
SMADC has been working to build an agricultural center since 2015.
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